Makeup and Murder

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Chapter 13

Dixie hung up with one of her customers and was dismayed. It was the fifth person who wasn’t placing an order with her that day. Her business depended upon commission earned on the products she sold, and her next paycheck was shrinking with each passing day.

She sat at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee and going through her list of contacts on her computer. While a few people placed small orders, the majority had not. It wasn’t hard for her to figure out why: her customers were afraid that they might be next on the hit list or that she was the killer. In all honesty, she couldn’t blame them.

Dixie was sad, and Louie seemed to sense it. He jumped up on her lap and began to purr. His appearance was a stark reminder of the problems in her life. Part of her wanted to cry, while another part of her wanted to get even with the person responsible for his appearance.

Maybe Harlan could help her draw out the culprit, but then again, he might think she was nuts. It was worth a try, though.

“Friendship Police Department,” a gruff man’s voice said.

“Hello, is Officer Granger available?” she asked.

“This is he,” he said, flipping through a file on his desk.

“This is Dixie,” she said, wondering why he sounded so old.

“Oh, how are you doing?” he asked, rubbing his forehead.

“Much better, thanks. I was wondering about something,” Dixie said.

“Okay, shoot,” he said.

“I was wondering if maybe we could use some bait to draw my stalker out?” Dixie asked.

“We’ve just added attempted homicide to the investigation, and I can’t in good conscience put you in any danger,” Harlan replied while digging around in his desk for some aspirin.

“What if one of the female officers posed as me?” she asked.

“How would that draw them in?” he asked.

“I think that they will strike again,” she said. “They were after me for some reason, and I don’t think that they are done with me yet.”

“What makes you say that?

“I’ve been trying to get my customers to place their usual orders, and most of them have refused. So either they are being scared off by someone, or they think I’m involved in the murders. I can’t live like this; I have to clear my name,” Dixie said, more emphatically than she had intended.

Harlan noticed the hitch in her voice and knew she was on the verge of crying. He understood how she felt, only because he had been around a few wrongly-accused people to notice the signs. It wasn’t fair, but murder never was.

“I’ll run this by my boss, and we’ll see what he thinks. In the meantime, let me know if any more of your customers jump ship,” Harlan said.

“Okay. Talk to you later?” Dixie asked, noting Harlan’s monotone voice.

“Sure. I’ll talk to you soon,” Harlan said before hanging up.

“Wow,” Dixie said out loud. “that didn’t go the way I had expected it to.” She stroked Louie’s thinned-out fur. He was the only thing that made her feel better, and his reassuring purr was helping her to calm down.

The phone rang, and Dixie was sure it was Harlan again. “Hello?” she said brightly.

“Hello Dixie,” the digitized voice said. “How are things going? Feeling any better?” A cruel laugh followed, but only for a few moments.

Dixie was speechless, as well as exhausted. The past week had been nothing short of horrible. She began thinking of how to turn the tables on her tormentor.

“I can hear you breathing, Dixie,” the voice said. “You’re breathing faster. Angry yet? I bet you think you can find me if you only had enough time.”

Dixie knew that was true, but she also knew that her tormentor wasn’t going to give up easily, so there was still a chance to catch them in the act. If only.

“I bet you don’t even know why I’m doing this. High school cheerleaders like you aren’t very bright,” the voice said, and then erupted in laughter again.

It was suddenly apparent to Dixie that this person knew about her past, and it rattled her.

“Do I know you?” Dixie asked, her hands shaking as she held the phone.

“Of course, you do. We’ve crossed paths before.” the voice replied.

“You still haven’t told me what you want,” Dixie said.

“You’ll find out. Eventually,” the caller said before hanging up.

Dixie dropped the phone on the kitchen table, and she felt sick. She wondered how close she was to the caller. Were they a friend, neighbor, or customer?

Dixie breathed deeply to calm herself, and then she dialed Harlan.

“Detective Granger please,” she said to the man who answered the phone.

A few moments later, Harlan answered. “Granger here,” he said while he played with some paper clips on his desk.

“Harlan? They called again,” she said, her voice wavering.

“You mean the crank caller?” he asked.

“Yes, and they threatened me again,” she said.

“What did they say?” he asked, sitting up straight and grabbing a pen.

Dixie gave him a play by play, which made Harlan afraid for her.

“Hey, I don’t want you to go out today. I’m going to swing by your house as soon as I can. In the meantime, I’m going to send a cruiser to your neighborhood to keep an eye out. If this person is agitated enough, they may be coming for you sooner as opposed to later. Do me a favor, check the locks on your doors and make sure you set the alarm. Keep your phone with you at all times, okay?” he said.

“Got it. Harlan, I’m scared,” Dixie said in a small voice. She hated the way she sounded. It brought back a flood of memories from her relationship with her ex, none of them good.

“I’d be worried if you weren’t,” he said. “Hang tight; help will be there soon, okay?”

“I’m going to hang up now, but remember a cruiser will be there soon. I’m on my way,” he said.

“Bye,” she said, and reluctantly hung up.

Dixie did as Harlan suggested before picking up Louie and going into her bedroom, locking the door behind her. She sat down on the bed and listened. Every sound, no matter how faint, made her heart pound. When she heard a loud pounding on the side of the house, she was sure that her attacker had finally arrived to finish the job.

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